Podcast: How to Encourage Ambition with Shellye Archambeau (Author)

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Photo: Even as a high schooler, Shellye Archambeau knew she wanted to be a CEO.

Welcome back to Shaping the FutureTM, where Shellye Archambeau is the guest today. Shellye is the former CEO of MetricStream and a current board member for numerous Fortune 500 companies. She is also the author of Unapologetically Ambitious: Take Risks, Break Barriers, and Create Success on Your Own Terms.

A full transcript of the episode appears below; it has been edited for clarity.

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The views expressed in this podcast are those of the guest and do not necessarily represent those of HMH.

Matthew Mugo Fields: Welcome to Shaping the Future, a production of HMH. I'm your host, Matthew Mugo Fields. Here, we'll examine leading issues in education, and I'll be joined by experts, innovators, and leaders to discuss how we prepare our students for an unpredictable future.

Today I spoke with Shellye Archambeau, Fortune 500 board member, former CEO, and author of the book Unapologetically Ambitious. Her advice on leading large teams and combating imposter syndrome is relevant not only for school leaders, but for students who are just beginning to discover their own career aspirations.

Shellye is the former CEO of MetricStream, a Silicon Valley-based, governance, risk, and compliance software company. At the time of her hiring, only 1.4% of CEO positions in Fortune 500 companies were held by women, with even fewer being held by Black women. Nevertheless, under Shellye’s leadership, MetricStream grew from a small startup into a global market leader. Now, Shellye has over 30 years of experience in technology, and is an experienced Board Director with a track record of building successful brands, teams, and organizations.

Shellye currently uses her expertise to serve on the boards of Verizon, Nordstrom, and Roper Technologies, among several others. She is also the President of Arizona State University and a strategic advisor to Forbes Ignite.

I was really looking forward to this conversation with Shellye. I knew her experiences would resonate with education leaders, as well as anyone who feels like they need a boost to strive for more in their careers or in their lives. So whether you’re hoping to transform your school or just your daily routine, our guest today has some wisdom for you.

Now, here is Shellye Archambeau.

Shellye, welcome to Shaping the Future podcast.

Shellye Archambeau: Well, thank you. I've been looking forward to participating.

Matthew: And I have been looking forward to having this conversation with you, and I must confess for several reasons. Number one, our podcast is titled Shaping the Future. And in your role as a technology leader, you spent many years quite literally shaping the future of several sectors. You today are a board member at several Fortune 500 companies. And in the process, you just happen to be a barrier breaker and someone who I greatly admire. So I want to just say again, welcome. And it's so great to have you.

Shellye: Well, thank you. Thanks very much.

Matthew: So Shellye, the way we start these conversations is we ask our guests to share a bit about their educational journeys, especially thinking about educators, mentors, and key influencers in the outcomes of your life. And tell us a little bit about that journey that you went on as a student.

Shellye: It's interesting in that I grew up moving around quite a bit. My father didn't have a college degree, and so every time there was an opportunity for him to improve his job and earnings, he took it, which meant I lived in seven different states before I got to high school. Teachers played an amazing role.

Matthew: Wow.

Shellye: When I was six years old, in the middle of first grade, my parents moved from Philadelphia to a far-flung suburb of Los Angeles over Christmas. So not only are you [the] new kid, but you're the new kid in the middle of the year. And oh, by the way, I was the only Black girl, not just in my class, not just in the grade, but maybe the school. So talk about a change from Philadelphia schools. I lost myself, frankly, for a couple of years. People didn't treat me very well.

This was the sixties. So there was a lot of racial tension going on. For as many people that wanted civil rights, you had just as many that didn't. And people let me know just how little they thought of me; a lot of verbal abuse, physical abuse, it was just not good. And it really wasn't until about third grade. My third-grade teacher, Mrs. Lutesinger, was the first one who really started to help me build some confidence that maybe there were people out there that did care about me. She saw something in me. I don't know what it was. But she lived outside in a suburb and had a farm and some horses. And she reached out to my mother and said, do you think Shellye would like to take horseback riding lessons? And it was going to her farm and sitting on top of a horse and learning to ride a horse that gave me my first sense of confidence, that maybe I actually could do something.

And then, the next teacher that played a key role was my fifth-grade teacher, Mrs. Israhi. I was good at math, and I was trying so hard just to be liked. And I like to help people. That was what I learned. I learned if I helped people that a lot of times, that would help them like me. And so, she would let me. If I finished my math assignment or whatever it was fast, then I could help others that were still working through theirs. And so that's what I would do. I would rush to finish as fast as I possibly could. So, I could be the one that was the helper, which helped me really build confidence in math, a skill set a lot of girls aren't focused on or encouraged [to do]. And, again, building some confidence. So early on, teachers played a role, and then guidance counselors.

I was in high school. You have that obligatory conversation when you're 16, junior year: are you going to go to college? Well, yes. Great. What do you want to do when you graduate from college? I don't know. And she's the one who said, "Well, Shellye, what do you like to do?" And I said, "Oh, that's easy. I'm in all the clubs, National Honor Society, American Field Service, French Club. I'm even a Girl Scout, but don't tell anybody." And I said, "I love leading them." And she said, "Well, goodness, business is kind of like clubs. You pull people together to go after a common mission and objective." And I was like, "Great. I like to run clubs. So, I'm going to run a business." And literally, at 16, I looked around, and the people who ran businesses were called CEOs. And I said, "I'm going to be a CEO." I was that naïve and audacious.

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Matthew: Good for you. Good for you.

Shellye: Yeah. So teachers and counselors really played a pivotal role for me throughout my educational journey.

Matthew: That's fantastic. And it's not surprising that many people who are high achievers credit a lot of that to the confidence that was built in schools by special teachers. And I'm sure that wherever they may be, those educators you highlighted greatly appreciate you remembering them. Shellye, we know that imposter syndrome is something that we not only see adults experiencing but [see] students experiencing as well. Have you ever dealt with imposter syndrome?

Shellye: My entire life. I still do from time to time, which is absolutely ridiculous. But it just goes to show you how pervasive it is. As a matter of fact, when I was writing my book because it's something that I've experienced so much, I actually did a little research. And here's what it is. It turns out that most people in the world experience imposter syndrome at some point or another; women, more so than men and women of color the most. So what does that mean? That means it's not you. It's not me. It's in the air. If everybody's experiencing it, then it's in the air. So if it's in the air, that means it's kind of like TV, right? Comes onto your television through the airwaves. Well, when something scary is on TV, what do you do? You turn it off, right? You try your remind yourself, "Okay, wait, this isn't real. It's not real. Even though it's scaring me, it's not real." And if you're still scared, you turned the TV off.

This imposter syndrome, this feeling, that little voice in your head, that's saying, you're not as good as they think you are. You're not as smart as everybody else. What makes you think you can actually do this? Why do you think you'll be successful? Wait until blah, blah. It's the little voice that's telling you all the reasons why you're going to fail, why you shouldn't do something, why you're not capable. I think we experience that voice because we live in such a judgmental world, but it doesn't matter why we experience it. The key is when you're experiencing it, when you hear that voice, know that everybody else is too. So turn that voice off. Remind yourself it is not real.

And if that doesn't work, then remember the only time you feel imposter syndrome is when you get an opportunity to do something new, to speak in front of a class, to run a project, to run for elected office, whatever it happens to be. But remember, you would only be asked to speak, you would only be invited into the group, you would only be offered a new opportunity if others thought that you're worth [it]. So if you can't believe in yourself, believe them. When they tell you that you can do it and they believe you can do it. And if that doesn't work, then fake it. Think it. Act like you know what you're doing until you do. Because if you think about it, you always figure it out. So give yourself the benefit of the doubt. You will figure it out eventually. And if that still doesn't work, well, that's when to go find your cheerleaders.

And when I say cheerleaders, I mean real cheerleaders. I mean, people who are going to be there in your corner saying, "Hey, Matthew, you've got this. You know, you can do it. I'm behind you," right? It's people who are going to build you up when you need it. And that can be parents. It can be friends. It can be siblings. All kinds of people can play that role. When I was growing up, my mother was my biggest cheerleader. So find your cheerleader, have them help build you up and build that confidence. But at the end of the day, do not let imposter syndrome stop you. It's not real. So push your way through it and get help if you need it.

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Matthew: So let's talk about the arc of your career because you truly are and have been a barrier breaker. How did that start? So you were an undergrad at Wharton. You eventually went over to start your career at IBM. We all know technology is central to not just every industry, but it is increasingly playing a role in education right now, but that wasn't necessarily always the case. So what made you decide to go to IBM? Why that company? Why that industry? Tell us about that.

Shellye: I try hard to listen. It's amazing how much advice and wisdom is out there if you just keep your ears open for it. So, along the way, I remember hearing somebody saying, if you choose an industry that is growing for your career, they have companies that are growing. And growing companies never have enough resources. Therefore, if you're good at what you do, you can move forward faster. You can take on more responsibility sooner. And I thought, great; I'm ambitious. I want to be a CEO. So at the time, this is the early eighties. Tech was the growing industry. So I picked tech. That's literally why I picked it because it was growing. And why IBM? At the time, they were like the Google/Apple of its day. They were the leader in technology. So I said, great. I'll pick tech. I'll pick IBM. I'll go be CEO of IBM.

Now, my bio didn't say that I was a CEO of IBM. So obviously, that didn't happen, but I kept true to my goal of becoming a CEO. So, after spending 14 years at IBM, rising through the ranks, I actually got to the point where I was running a multi-billion-dollar division over in Asia-Pacific. My boss reported to Lou Gerstner, the CEO. There wasn't anyone higher than me in the company that looked like me.

I had done really well in 14 years. But it just wasn't clear that I was going to have a true opportunity to compete for the CEO role. And I said I love IBM. I really do. I learned a lot. I've had a great experience. Most of my friends are IBMers because I moved around so much, but I want to be a CEO. So I'm going to have to make the hard decision to leave. And I worked my way to Silicon Valley. And after being the chief marketing officer and VP of sales for a couple of public companies, I got my opportunity to be the CEO of a very broken company called MetricStream, which we turned around and made into a global market leader.

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Matthew: Wow. Number one, that's fascinating. Why'd you choose that role, and what path did you employ? What tactics did you employ to turn around the company?

Shellye: So, I have learned through my career trajectory, actually at IBM, that if you take risky jobs and you do well, you get noticed. If you take a job that things are working well, you take it over. It continues to work well—it's questionable. Was it you? Or was it just the fact that the business is doing fine? But if you actually take over something that is brand new to build or broken and needs to be fixed, then you actually stand out because you made a true impact on that business. So I was ambitious. I wanted to stand out, and I learned that's the whole risk/reward, risk and opportunity. There are two sides of the same coin. You have to take the risk to actually get opportunities, to get the rewards. So I'd learned that early in my career. So in taking the CEO job at this company that was pretty broken, it was the ultimate risk, high-risk stakes because many people didn't think it was actually going to make it.

So, I looked at it, and the questions I always ask myself, Matthew, before I take a risk is, first of all, what's the upside? Right? What is the benefit if I do this? Then, what's the downside? All right. Then I asked myself, what's the worst that could happen? And can I live with it? And if I can live with it, I take the risk. And what I've found is if I'm actually really clear and take the time to identify what is the worst that can happen. It's not so scary when you look at it. It's when you don't spend time envisioning what it actually is that all of a sudden, it's just the fear factor. Right? It's just scary. It's just fearful, but you don't even know exactly what it is. So I found that I could actually live with a lot.

If it isn't going to affect my health, if it's not going to bankrupt my family, if it's not going to, then I can pretty much do it. So that's why I took it because I learned risk and reward are two sides of the same coin. And I've turned around a lot of businesses. Therefore, I felt I had the skills. And the next part was I took steps to try to mitigate some of the risk. So if I was going to take a company that needed fixing, I wanted to make sure that the investors were strong and responsible investors. I also needed to make sure that the technology that was the underlying element of the company was actually strong, good, and in good shape. Now I'm not an engineer. So, I actually had a friend who was a CTO back in my LoudCloud days.

He came and spent a day, combed through the technology, went through, met with the team, et cetera, and said, yes, Shellye, the technology is solid. And I said, okay, great. Now I have something to work with. So I did some things to mitigate the risk before I actually took it. I did that before I took it. So, in doing all of that, then it was, okay, once you're in, you say, what did I do to turn around the company? First, you have to understand what's wrong. You have to just say what's wrong and not at a service level but a deep level. So it's talking to people, got to talk to employees and customers, suppliers, right? What is really happening? And [the] bottom line is the company had built something that they fell in love with, but that the market really didn't need. That was the net. So the value proposition was very broken.

So, I needed to find a value proposition, which meant I needed to find a problem that was a must solve problem in the customer's eyes that we could solve better than anybody else. And that's what I set out to do. So we identified the problem, which was managing compliance and risk. This is back in 2003, 2004. And we took the technology, and we optimized it for managing compliance and risk. And then we worked really hard, built the right team, which is hiring the right people, inspiring and motivating, et cetera, to what we need to do. Everybody was selling. I was out there meeting with clients. I was out there meeting with vendors, out there trying to help recruit, I mean everything. And at the end of the day, we were able to do it. We built a strong team, and the team really came together and executed.

Matthew: Yeah, that's, again, more sage advice. I know this to be true because at the time you and I first met about five or six years ago, I was an upstart entrepreneur in Silicon Valley in the education technology space. And two things people said: that Shellye has pulled off one of the most dramatic turnarounds in Silicon Valley that anyone knew of, and the second thing they said was she's the only black woman CEO in Silicon Valley. Your thoughtfulness, your approach, you're clearly strategic, all of that played a role in your success in the turnaround. But tell me how that applied to your role in this area of representation. How did you think about approaching these kinds of professional challenges when, in fact, there weren't many models for you to turn to and look at? As you said earlier, folks that look like you. How did you think about your sort of, your role, gender, and race playing a role in your career?

Shellye: Yeah, great question. Because, frankly, it wasn't just being the only black woman; it was the fact that there weren't many women either. So it was both sides. Coming and going. So the first thing is I'm a big believer in asking for help. That's part of that, "Tell the nurse, so the nurse can help you." I also believe in just asking for help, because as I said earlier, if you ask in the right way, most people are willing to help you. So I had to go find help. So, first of all, I became CEO. People tell you it's lonely at the top. And you intellectually got it, [that's it's] lonely at the top. But it's not until you're in the role that you understand part of why. It's the first time in my career that I had no peers. I had no peers. There was no one that you could go to and say, "Oh my God, can you believe this happened?"

Or "I'm really struggling with this, any thoughts?" in a safe way. Everybody either worked for you, or you worked for them. So you couldn't do that. So the first thing I did was I put together a set of peers because I need peers. I literally reached out and brought together a group of other women CEOs, a mixed group, and we became each other's peers. And we would meet periodically, talk about topics, about business-building, et cetera. But those were my people. So one, that was key. Two, I knew that I carried a lot of weight on my shoulders, and the weight I carried was because there weren't many women and because there weren't Black women running companies of any size. What I did was going to reflect on everybody. So, that's a lot of weight. Should I have to carry that weight? No, but life's not fair.

It just is what it is. So that meant that I needed to be even more focused on improving odds so that I didn't have stumbles, so that I could improve my ability to be successful and successful with the team. And one of the key elements of that is I am a servant leader. That's my approach to leadership. I believe that if you focus on the team and helping the team to be successful, then you will be successful. And if you do that in a genuine way, people realize that, okay, you really care about them, and you care about whether or not they succeed and what happens. And it creates an environment that not only enables people to do their best work, but it also creates a level of loyalty and respect. And it also improves your ability to hire and build teams.

So, that was something that I always used because I couldn't, as a Black woman, have an autocratic style. That was not going to work. It was just not going to be accepted. So the good news is because of what was required as I was building my own style and approaches, it actually set me up to be the leader that I am, and that I was, when I was building MetricStream. Servant leadership and inspirational leader, all of those things helped significantly.

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Matthew: Now you have recently, about a year ago, published a book kind of chronicling your journey. It's part memoir. But I also think part practical advice for folks and their careers. And I wanted to dive into the book a bit. But before we do that, tell us a little bit about what inspired you to write Unapologetically Ambitious, your latest book?

Shellye: You know, Matthew, it goes back to the comment I made earlier about really having [an] inner drive to help people. Early in my career, people would reach out, and they'd want to pick my brain, hear my story, et cetera. And I responded. I respond to people. I try to meet with people that want to meet. But as I took on more and more responsibility in my career, I still responded. Matter of fact, I still do, but I couldn't meet with everyone that wanted to meet with me. And, honestly, it pained me. And I said, when I get to phase two, I'm going to write it down. I'm going to write down what made Shellye, Shellye. I'm going to write down lessons learned, what worked, what didn't, to pull back some of the mystery on how do you get this done. Because hard work and ambition, all by themselves, are just not enough.

And people don't tell you that. There's a lot more that you need to do to be strategic and be intentional to try to improve your own odds. Because it was clear the odds weren't in my favor when I was coming through. But the honest answer is the odds aren't in a lot of people's favor.

Matthew: That's right.

Shellye: So what can we do individually to improve our odds? And that's what I wanted to share in this book. So you're right. Is it part memoir? It is because I share the stories. I didn't want to write a book that said, do X, do Y, do Z. I wanted to share it through the story, through the experience. And I wanted to do it, not just professionally, there are a lot of professional books, but I wanted to talk about life, professional and personal, because life is hard and nobody tells you that. And therefore, when it gets hard, we think, oh my God, it's too hard for me. It's easy for everybody else. I'm obviously not cut out for this. And that's just not true. It's hard for everybody. They just don't tell you. So I wanted to tell you.

Matthew: Absolutely. And the title, talk to us about the title. Why did you choose that title?

Shellye: Oh yeah, it's really funny in that I had the entire book written and still had no title. It was like, what am I going to call this thing? And I knew I wanted the word "ambition" in the book, but I couldn't call it Ambition. So, I'm struggling, and I'm struggling. And I was having a conversation with friends, all happened to be female. And we were talking about apologizing. And I said, I feel like as women we're raised to apologize from birth because, yes 5%, 10%, maybe of the times we apologize, it's because we actually did something wrong. But the rest of it is to make the rest of the world feel better, to show empathy, show we care, smooth feathers, ease tension. So, we use "I'm sorry" like a lot of people use salt. It just makes everything taste a little better. So we have to stop doing that. And I said, "You know what? That's it. Unapologetically Ambitious." Because everyone deserves the right to be ambitious, and no one should have to apologize for it.

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Matthew: Wow. Yeah. And so, although you're saying that part of the inspiration here clearly is for women executives, this book has so many nuggets in it that really anyone and everyone should read it and can learn from it. I know as we think about our audience and the folks that listen to Shaping the Future, we have a lot of educators. We have folks who are classroom teachers who may be aspiring to be administrators. We have folks who are leaders in school systems. We don't often talk about them this way, but school systems are large complex organizations, not that dissimilar in some ways from companies. What do you think are some of the sort of key nuggets that you want to call out for folks out there that are listening that may be applicable to them?

Shellye: First of all, I'll tell you when I was given guidance, because I always do research, all right, how should I think about writing this book? The biggest advice I got was [to] pick a target audience. It may apply to others, but it's really important to have a clear target audience. So, my target audience was, frankly, young professionals, trying to help them with just things to think about as they build out their careers. But what has been most surprising is the fact that I've gotten feedback and reach outs from people across the spectrum. Yes, young professionals. Yes, women, but even 50-year-old white men, in terms of, oh my goodness, this is so helpful. So, what I will tell you is I try to share not just how to improve your odds, but I tried to provide really tangible, practical advice that, frankly, you can go do tomorrow because that was my objective.

I wanted to give people tangible things that they could go do tomorrow to actually help them think through and improve their odds to get what they want. So, whether that is around planning and how to plan, whether it is setting [a] goal, asking for what you want, adopting mentors. I talk about how to make sure you get feedback because a lot of people don't like giving other people feedback. And therefore, if you don't actually get the feedback, it's hard for you to improve. So how do you actually get it? I talk about negotiating. I talk about the importance of making choices, not sacrifices. That book is just full of hopefully all kinds of lessons that will help you, not just professionally, but personally as well.

Matthew: Yeah. I couldn't agree more with that. You have this concept in the book that you talk about focusing on making your strengths stronger. Could you talk a little bit about that? Cause I thought it was really interesting.

Shellye: Yes. It's very counterintuitive. As we're building our careers, we're always told focus on your weaknesses, right? Here's where you're weak. You need to strengthen your weaknesses. Frankly, I don't have the same view. You need to get your weaknesses so that they're no longer a weakness, but don't focus on trying to make them a strength. Because if you are already strong in something and you're weak in something else, you are known for your strengths. If you think about people, coworkers, folks that you engage with, et cetera, typically you think of them in certain ways. Oh, super organized. Another one might be a great communicator. Oh, if I need to negotiate something, I'm going to reach out to so-and-so. We know people who are strong in certain areas. That's what they're known for. They're not known because, oh, they're decent at how they're able to operate a spreadsheet, or they're okay in presenting.

No, we don't think of them that way. Plus, if you spend two hours, you are going to be able to focus on getting your strengths even stronger in a two-hour timeframe because you're already strong. So, doubling down, it's going to come easier to you, and you'll be able to improve even more versus I take the same two hours and try to focus on something that I'm weak at, I'm not going to make a whole lot of progress. So, what's the best return on my time because time is finite. It's one of our most precious commodities. Therefore, my view is, listen, understand your strengths. Keep doubling down on those strengths because that's what's going to make you stand out. That's why people are going to hire you. That's why they're going to ask you to be part of a team, but you have to make sure that your weaknesses are not detractors.

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Matthew: That makes a ton of sense. By the way, on that one, many educators out there will recognize this principle because we talk a lot about having asset models, not deficit models. So when it comes to maybe students' skills and achievement, focusing on those things and highlighting those things that students are really good at, even as we try to sure up the areas that they may have some struggle in. So that reconciles beautifully in the world of education. The other thing I thought was interesting is you have this idea of, kind of put it out there, say what you want to go after. Make your goals known. Did you always do that? Were you in college telling people you were going to be a CEO? How did you come upon that sort of principle?

Shellye: Yeah. Good question. Because you're right, I believe you have to tell the universe what you want so the universe can help you. So here I was, I was a sophomore, and the French Club was getting ready to do elections for who was going to run the French Club. Well, I'm a sophomore, right? Sophomores don't get elected to things like that. Those go to the seniors. Maybe a junior. But I really wanted to be president of the French Club, and I thought I, frankly, could do a better job. And so I was talking to one of my friends about, I'd really like to do this. And they say, "Oh, you should do it." And I said, "Ah, I'm not sure, blah, blah, blah." And so, with their encouragement, it was like, okay, I'm going to do this. Well, if I'm going to do this, I need to tell people that I want to do this and why I want to do this; otherwise, I'm not going to have a shot at all.

So the French Club wasn't that big. So I went around to tell everybody that I wanted to do this and why I wanted to do this. And sure enough, I actually got elected as president; made the senior who was running really mad, and she ended up quitting the group. But I did. And that was probably the first time it was like, okay, I put it out there. It was risky, but I put it out there. And so I learned, you know what, if you don't tell people, they can't help you because [of the] people I told, some people are like, "Oh, that's great."

They offered to make posters. Right? "Oh, I can help you with this." And if I had just kept to myself and waited till the election day and put it out there, I wouldn't have gotten all this help. So yeah. You never know who can be helpful. It could be a neighbor. It could be somebody at the gym. You never know who can be helpful. So if they don't know what your aspirations are, then you're definitely not going to get any help. But if they do know, you might be surprised by how many people will be helpful, as long as you share it in the right way.

Matthew: That's right. And say more about that. What's the right way?

Shellye: Well, you can't go around saying, "So I want to be a CEO," right? No, you can't walk around and say, "Okay, I'm going to be a CEO one day. So, everybody, get in line." Right? I mean, that's just obnoxious. Nobody wants to work with people like that. But instead, what I learned was okay, two things, one when I first started IBM, matter of fact, I didn't even start full-time. I was working as an intern. One of the IBMers just asked me, just casually, because I'm in college/working intern, "Oh, what do you want to do when you get out of college? What do I do with your career?" And I said, "I want to be a CEO." And the person looked at me, and I thought, okay, maybe I shouldn't say that right away.

So, what I learned was to pick a role a couple [of] levels above wherever I was. Oh. So one day, I hope to be a marketing manager. All right. I want to run a branch. I want to run a division. I just kept moving it ahead for three or four steps cause people could envision that. The other thing I would do is instead of telling people, "This is what I want to do." I would ask them if they thought I had potential. I'd say, "One day, I aspire to be a director of blah, blah, blah. Do you think I have the potential?" Now what I've done is I've told them what I want to do. But I did it in a way that was very open, right? If anything, I was asking for their advice, asking for their perspective. It was not an in your face, I'm going to do this, so figure it out. It was, I want to do this. What do you think? So, I find that most people, if asked in the right way or approached in the right way, will actually like to help.

Matthew: Yeah. That's super smart. In saying it that way, you're also, in some ways, enlisting their support in helping you get there. Right?

Shellye: Yes. You nailed it. Now, listen, Matthew, you nailed it. Cause that was like the first step of my process. So I would say things just like that. I want it to this one day; do you think I have the potential? And they would always say yes. Now, why did they say yes? Well, if they didn't think you have potential, you wouldn't be working for the company or the organization or the school. So, of course, you have potential, plus it's an easy yes. There's nothing to measure that or hold anybody accountable. So they'll say yes. And when they say, yes, it's like a fish biting on a hook because now you get to say, "Wonderful. What advice do you have for me on," and then be specific on either skills I need to build, experiences I should have, the right people I should talk to, whatever it happens to be.

They are almost forced to answer you because they've just told you that you have potential. So if they then have nothing to say, they look kind of weak. Therefore, they always say something, and guess what? Take the advice. Whatever they say, take the advice. And then report back. "Oh, you suggested that I talk to so-and-so, or you recommended that I build this skill. Here's what I've done. Is this what you meant? What do you think?" All of a sudden, they realized that, oh my goodness, they're actually impacting you. So now they're vested in you. And if you keep doing this before you know it, you actually have a mentor, and if you do well in your career, they can actually turn into a sponsor because now they want to take credit for you. "Oh, Shellye's rising. She's doing well. Oh, yeah, yeah. I give her advice from time to time." Right. They want credit. They want to take credit, which is great. I want everybody to take credit for me.

Matthew: I want to end on a note of, now that we've heard your journey, heard your story, I want to, again, thank you for everything that you have done and all that you've shared, but I want to end by asking you, to the educators out there, what advice do you have for them on how could we create a 100,000 more Shellye Archambeaus?

Shellye: I see the number one job of a leader in any organization is to actually create more leaders because you should be building teams underneath you to execute [and] get things done. And do you need to make sure that's happening? Absolutely. But it's the leader's job to make sure that you're actually developing the human capital that's around you. Because if you don't have more leaders coming up the chain, then everything you've done and built is at risk. The legacy that you need to leave is that you are leaving stronger, better leaders behind you to continue the work and make an impact. So, my biggest advice is [to] focus on building leaders in your organization.

Matthew: That's right. I would say also to add to that, tying it back to your story, for students and young children, believing that you can be a leader is so important. And for you, it was a teacher taking you horseback riding. For others, it's going to be something else. But having that connection and building those relationships with students so that you can help them see themselves in the future in roles like what Shellye has engaged in, I think, is super powerful as well.

Shellye: I fully agree. And I see that part of it as building leaders, right? How do you build future leaders? You help them understand their capability. You help them understand what they can do. You build that overall confidence, and you set high expectations because if you believe they can do it, then they begin to believe that they can do it.

Matthew: That's right. That's right. And you take them horseback riding. That doesn't hurt either. Shellye, it's been great to have you on Shaping the Future. Thank you so much for your time.

Shellye: Absolutely. Thanks for having me.

Matthew: Thanks for listening and learning with us. You can be the first to hear new episodes of Shaping the Future by subscribing on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts. If you enjoyed today's show, please rate, review, and share with your network. Give us a shout-out on your favorite social media platforms.

We value our listeners' support and feedback. Email us at Shaped@hmhco.com. Shaping the Future is produced by HMH. Thanks for listening.

SHAPING THE FUTURE is a trademark of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.

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